Online comment: Heading for war with Iran?
By Simon Heffer
I start to wonder whether it might not be time for us to get as nasty with other countries as they do with us.
As we wait anxiously to see what will happen to our 15 hostages - for that is what they are - in Teheran, we should feel undiluted rage at the behaviour of other countries and institutions towards us.
Mind you, when those third parties witness the drivelling weakness of the Foreign Office over the last week, and in particular the pathetic show put up by our Foreign Secretary - who must surely be just about the worst in our history - who can blame them?
There is no doubt the 15 were in international waters when captured, or that they were undertaking a United Nations mission in pursuit of upholding UN resolutions. Yet the best the UN itself can do is pass a weak-kneed resolution describing its “grave concern”, rather than a tougher one calling upon all nations to “deplore” Iran’s behaviour.
This is all the fault of Russia, to whom Mr Blair routinely cosies up, and whom the civilised world invites to its annual G8 summit meetings. Russia seems to think it isn’t worth “deploring” the kidnap of our sailors, so we had better start to show Russia what we think of it: by uninviting it from the G8 this year, and every year until it learns some manners.
When not busy ordering the murders of his opponents, Vladimir Putin seems to enjoy hobnobbing with the leaders of civilised countries, so such a sanction would hurt.
We don’t have the means to engage in gunboat diplomacy with Iran, and any special forces operation would be fraught with risks both for the hostages and their rescuers.
For the moment, ever-stricter sanctions on Iran seems the only answer. America is resolute about this. So too, oddly, is the world’s greatest sanction-busting nation, France. So the scope for tightening the economic ratchet on Iran, and the means to do so, look healthy.
However, we should be under no illusions about the effectiveness of such weapons.
Saddam Hussein, after all, was put under sanctions for years. Real hardship was caused to his people, but almost none at all to him and his ruling clique.
President Ahmadinejad of Iran has already threatened Britain about our involvement of “third parties” - that is, the UN - in the present dispute, showing his utter contempt for that organisation.
He would treat sanctions with similar disdain, happily cutting off the noses of his own people to spite their faces. And all the time, the threat he and his inherent instability pose to us all would never cease growing.
Whatever the immediate outcome of this crisis, Britain has some hard decisions to make. Is it worthwhile, any longer, to work through the United Nations?
So long as a morally warped nation like Putin’s Russia calls the shots in the Security Council, no.
We can make debating points about how odd it is that Putin deplores Islamic nutters when they attack his forces but is relaxed about them attacking ours, but in the end there is no point in bothering.
The UN showed itself to be weak with Saddam Hussein. It is no better now.
If we are going to continue to try to be a player in the Middle East, then we have to throw in our lot with the Americans, for no-one else makes the blindest bit of difference there.
The capricious, and indeed downright wicked, behaviour of the Iranians towards our sailors confirms one other thing: that the civilised world cannot let the Ahmadinejad regime develop nuclear weapons.
It is not just his oft-repeated enthusiasm for wiping Israel off the face of the earth that should worry us: it is what this madman might decide he wants to do to anyone else within range.
This is no time for our clueless Government to be mothballing the Navy and cutting down the other services. For, at some stage, Iran’s lethal contempt for the rule of international law is going to mean war.
- ▼ 2007 (12)